How to Take Your Boss to Lunch

Taking your boss to lunch can have many benefits, but when is it appropriate?

Lisa B. Marshall
3-minute read

Here’s an interesting question from a listener.

“Tomorrow is my birthday and I was thinking about inviting my boss out to lunch. Is it appropriate? I’m actually considering inviting the entire project team. Should I still pursue it?”

Going to lunch with coworkers is a great way to build rapport, and within a team, it can really strengthen relationships. However, in an office environment, usually other people take YOU out for your birthday, not the other way around. If you offer to take the entire team out for your birthday (or even just inviting your boss), it could seem that you are “trying too hard.”  

I suggest instead organizing a group lunch to celebrate a team success. You could buy a special treat to celebrate. Another option is to skip the lunch celebration, and instead, simply bring in bagels/donuts in the morning. You could even consider making it a tradition to bring it goodies the first Friday of every month or perhaps on every holiday. 

Taking a boss out to lunch is a little different. Usually when an employee takes out a boss, it’s to discuss something difficult. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be very worthwhile to develop better rapport over lunch. However, you must be prepared.

Prepare for Your Business Lunch with the Boss

  • Think about some light topics to discuss during your business lunch. Is there a new project you’re working on that you want to fill the boss in about? Do you have some questions or suggestions? Need some advice? Keep the subjects light. You can also discuss a subject you know your boss is interested in that you also have some knowledge about, like a sport or hobby.
  • Check you boss’s availability and where he or she wants to go. Then find two or three places nearby to suggest—keeping in mind the time constraints. You also want someplace you can eat neatly.
  • Invite your boss to lunch. Let her know right away that it’s nothing serious, you just wanted the opportunity to have some dedicated time off site and thought it would be nice to treat her to a nice lunch.
  • If you need to drive to the restaurant, offer to do the driving.

Hold Your Business Lunch with the Boss

  • During the meal, watch your etiquette! Here is a great article with 10 Things Not to Do at a business lunch with the boss. 
  • If you don't yet know much about your boss personally, at least half of the conversation should address issues about work. But keep them light. This is your chance to get ideas from your boss or share ideas of your own. Show your boss you are committed to your work and have a lot to offer. But also keep in mind that lunch is a social event and should be used also to get to know more about your boss—things other than work. Try to discover activities and interests that you might have in common.  
  • If you know your boss really well, then just use the time to catch-up and refresh the relationship. There is no replacement for one-on-one time to help build and strengthen a professional relationship.  
  • Pick up the tab. If for some reason the boss insists on paying after you make two attempts, accept the kind gesture.
  • On the drive or walk back to the office, continue the positive rapport, maybe summarizing some things you discussed. 

With these steps, you should be able to strengthen your relationship with your boss, show him your strengths, and pick up some good information to do your job more efficiently.

This is Lisa B. Marshall helping you to lead and influence.  If you'd like to learn more about compelling communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview, and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk. As always, your success is my business

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.